Categories
HST380

The World According to the Zhou

I think the idea that struck me most in this week’s reading was how Di Cosmo emphasized the need to couch the Zhou worldview in its proper historical and cultural context. His example at the begining of the chapter regarding a statement that one of the ministers of the Zhou court (Fu Ch’en) made regarding the Ti people espically struck me, since without the culutral and historical context that Di Cosmo provides, I would have just viewed it as an ‘us-vs-them’ mentality that was being espoused. This example, paired with a quote from page 107 (“…such clashes were presented as the expression of a great chasm between civilization and barbarism. If we take this literally, this rhetorical veneer flattens and ultimately obscures an undoubtedly more complex picture. The Chou states dealt with their northern and western neighbors in a variety of ways…”), paints a picture of the Zhou worldview as being multi-layered and complex, even when seemingly straightforward terms such as ” civilization and barbarism” are being used. I found this to be especially fasinating due to my own misinterpratation of these terms prior to reading this chapter. When we talked in class about how the Zhou viewed groups as being (generally) worse the farther away they were from the ‘center’ of civilization, I assumed their dealings with outsiders must have been few in number and violent in nature. However, from the offset of the chapter, Di Cosmo refutes this mentality (with one example being his explanation of there being “two notions of geographic space” that were explored in ancient Chinese work) and retells interesting primary-source events along the way. Thus, after this reading, I feel like my view of the Zhou worldview has become more well-rounded, critical, and concerned with learning the proper historical and cultural context for words and events.

Categories
HST380

Zoning in on My Topic

After conducting a bit more research into my chosen topic (China’s 1,000-year occupation of Vietnam, specifically the cultural relations in that period), I believe I have a somewhat clearer picture of the context of my topic and some possible routes of research that I could take. The first resource that I found to be helpful was the Encyclopedia Britannica. As Dr. D. mentioned, this resource can be a bit sluggish with updating, so it can be better to use Wikipedia in general. In this case, however, Wikipedia actually had a bit too much information for me that I had some trouble understanding, whereas the section of the Britannica entry that I focused on (“Vietnam under Chinese rule”) turned out to be an excellent primer for a complete newbie like me. Another resource that ended up providing a great overview of my topic was a section in the book “China and Vietnam: The politics of asymmetry,” which I found using Trexler Library’s database. Although this overview ended up being much briefer, I am hoping that the book will be a good starting point for me down the road, since later chapters provide a more detailed look into the history between the two nations. Aside from these introductory sources, I have been able to locate a few more books through the Trexler site, although I’m hoping to locate a few sources in the coming week.

In addition to finding sources, I have also been thinking over how I would like to convey and present my research by the end of the course. As of now, I am aiming for a more scholarly format than a creative one. While I would normally write a research paper, since that is what I am most comfortable with, I am hoping to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit. After looking over the linked resource that suggested alternatives to research papers, I am most drawn to writing an encyclopedia entry or a literature review or examing the current scholarly discussions taking place in this area, since Dr. D. mentioned that there was a fair amount of research on this topic.

Categories
HST380

My Research Topic

My topic of interest for my research is (as of now) the relationship between China and Vietnam, specifically cultural exchanges that took place between the two nations during the Han dynasty’s 1,000-year occupation of the country. My interest in this topic was first sparked by a conversation I had with a friend, who mentioned that one way of saying teacher in Vietnamese (I believe she was referring to giáo sư) was similar to the Chinese word for teacher (老师 lǎo shī). When I asked why this was, she explained that China had actually inhabited Vietnam for a very long period of time, which resulted in quite a bit of cultural exchange and blending taking place.

This surprised and intrigued me quite a bit, since I had never known that Vietnam had been occupied for such a long time. I wanted to learn more about the history of it, but because none of the classes I was enrolled in at the time were about Chinese or Vietnamese history, I did not have the time to explore it any further. Thus, when I began to think about research topics for this course, I immediately remembered my interest in China-Vietnam relations and thought that it could be a good research project to undertake. Although I do not have any prior experience with or knowledge of this topic, I am excited to delve into it and learn more in the coming weeks.

Categories
HST380

Growth Cat

I picked this cat because I love the message that mistakes are ok and a normal part of growth! Just as the image says, once we are in a safe environment, we can finally begin to test our limits, make mistakes, and, ultimately, grow.

Categories
HST271

Week 12: Exploration Packet 2

 This week’s reading was especially interesting to me since I am planning on majoring in International Relations. So being able to analyze Chinese history through that lens in addition to the usual historical perspective was quite enjoyable! With this in mind, it was interesting to read the toasts that Nixon and Zhou Enlai gave at the banquet on February 25th, 1972. Specifically, the continuous and (ostensibly) subtle references that the two kept making to their ideologies. For example, Nixon mentioning that American journalists and press have the “right to speak for themselves and that no one in government can speak for them”, as well as his reference to “…the determination of the Chinese people to retain their independence throughout their long history.” Zhou also made similar (if slightly more subtle) remakes, mentioning the fact that China was “deeply convinced that the strength of the people is powerful” and his belief that “the general trend of the world is definitely towards light and not darkness”, a nod to the Marxist view that history will eventually lead to the greatest “light” of all: an entirely classless society.

This also brought to mind liberalism in international relations (which, by the way, is not the same as political liberalism), which adheres to a progressive view of history. This is, in essence, the idea that human society is projected to go ever upwards and that humanity can only become better with each passing century. While I highly doubt that Zhou held to a liberal view of international relations, I still find it to be another fascinating parallel between the Chinese and the Americans. This is mainly because of Henry Kissinger’s view of international relations heavily favored realism, which oftentimes opposes liberalism. For example, a realist view of history would be cyclical rather than progressive, meaning that history is bound to repeat itself forever and that, partly due to this, the international system is an eternal struggle for stability and power. So again, the ideological spilt between the two nations is on display. As I mentioned, I do not think that this was the message Zhou intended to get across with that line, but it still showcases just how different the countries (and leaders in charge of the countries) were, even unintentionally. Although Nixon and Mao put on quite the show of pretending that their friendly talks had overcome any differences that the two nations might have had, it will be interesting to see how that relationship will play out in the coming weeks of this class.

Works Cited

Richard Nixon and Zhou Enlai, “Toasts at a Banquet Honoring the Premier“, February 25, 1972

Categories
HST271

Show and Tell Project 4: Born Red Response Paper

The first thing I noticed about the Born Red: A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution reading was how hard the author’s life was from the very start. Gao Yuan was born in the village of  “Yizhen” (in the preface Gao mentions that most village names he mentioned have been altered) in the year 1952. Gao Yuan lived there with his mother, father, grandfather, and five siblings, of which he was the second oldest. As he was growing up, China entered the period of its Great Leap Forward. According to Gao, the reaction of the people at first was excitement. Finally, they said, China would become a truly Communist society. Gao’s family even donated their pots and metal to the steel furnace that the town handcrafted. However, as we learned, the Great Leap Forward ended up being a failure, causing the horrific suffering and death of millions of Chinese people. From the years 1960 to 1962, Gao writes that he remembers eating ground-up corn cobs, tree bark, and even bugs just to have something in his belly. The entire village was in the same situation as Gao and his family, so much so that many were selling their extremely valuable heirlooms for mere pennies. Gao’s grandfather was able to buy a Ming Dynasty-era incense burner for only 50 fen, the same price as one persimmon.

Gao’s recollections of his village and family during this time reminded me of what we learned that China as a whole was experiencing. Both Yizhen and China were very optimistic and excited for the Great Leap Forward to happen. Both were willing to make sacrifices for the cause, Gao and his family in the form of their metal donations and China in the form of their homemade backyard furnaces. However, both parties were met with bitter disappointment and terrible consequences via extreme food shortages and poverty. It is so awful that all of those innocent people had to experience those terrible conditions when their only ‘crime’ (so to speak) was being hopeful and working towards what they viewed to be a better future.

Unfortunately, that better future was far from appearing, even after the end of the Great Leap Forward. Gao continues his story, recounting how he was enrolled in a middle school soon after the close of the Great Leap Forward (around 1964-1965). Gao remembers the classmates he met and the teachers he befriended, particularly a teacher named Li. For a while, it seemed that Gao was relatively happy and comfortable in his situation. However, the paranoia and terror of the Cultural Revolution soon began to leach into his school. When essays were published in several newspapers criticizing the Communist government, Gao and his classmates were tasked with creating large posters denouncing the three authors (also known as the Three Family Village) and those associated with them. Slogans that they wrote included “Down with the Three Family Village!”, “Smash the black gang!”, “Down with the antisocialist cabal!”, and “Carry the revolution through to the end!” They ended up spending multiple days on this project, covering their entire campus in their work. Another incident that occurred not long after involved a picture of Chairman Mao, who one student claimed was mocking him as it depicted him with only one ear. This caused other students to see anti-Communist messages everywhere, with some saying that they found a snake painted onto a portrait of Lenin and others sure that a picture of Mao had a sword hanging over his head. Both of these things turned out to be false, with the former being nothing but a shadow and the latter revealing itself to be a painted beam. However, the suspicious attitudes of the teachers and students at Gao’s school were basically the mood of the whole nation.

Reading this part of the book really helped to put the reading that I did for my blog post into perspective. Although it still boggles my mind that literal school children could commit the horrible acts that they did, it was good to read the context for how they got to the point they did. In my mind, I had this image of normal children immediately becoming violent and dangerous almost overnight, whereas the reality was that the situation had a much slower build up. In fact, it seems that this build up was mainly orchestrated by the teachers at the school. This was especially interesting to me, as I had been very curious as to where the students had been getting the motivation and information to do the things they did. However, I am not at all trying to say that what happened to the teachers was somehow deserved. The Cultural Revolution had a horrible impact on all those involved, regardless of their age, rank, or social status. The fear and terror that permeated Chinese society during this time was crippling to the entire society and victimized millions upon millions of terrified, innocent people.

Works Cited

Gao, Yuan. Born Red : A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1987

Notes: I read from chapter 1 to chapter 11

Categories
HST271

Week 11: Exploration Packet 3

The first thing that I noticed as I was reading through chapter 5 of the book Born Red: A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution was just how young Gao Yuan (the author) and his peers were when the events in the book were taking place. In the section of the book that I read, Gao Yuan recounts the acts of violence that he and his classmates committed against their teachers. Suspecting that they were bourgeois, students took on the roles of “prosecutor, judge, and police” against their teachers. However, according to Gao Yuan, “No defense was allowed”, and once the students deemed their superiors to be guilty in some way, punishment immediately followed. Techniques for ‘correction’ included forcing the teachers to wear humiliating slogan boards, cut off their hair, or, worst of all, make them get into the “jet-plane position”. This, according to Gao Yuan, was when “Two people would stand on each side of the accused, push him to his knees, pull his head back by the hair, and hold his arms out in back like airplane wings. We tried it on each other and found it caused great strain on the back and neck.” To justify all of the terrible things that they were doing, the students claimed that the Americans and Nationalists committed much greater atrocities against the Communists during the war. Therefore, in their minds, the punishment that they were giving their teachers was much less severe than what had been done during the war.

As previously mentioned, what shocked me most about this reading was just how young the students doing these terrible things really were. Although I knew that Gao Yuan was a teenager while these events were taking place, I assumed that he was in late high school. However, a quick Google search revealed that he was actually in middle school during this time. Within the book, Gao Yuan also mentioned that “One group of first-graders made a cap of sorghum stalks as high as a two-story building for their homeroom teacher; they had to support it with long poles as they marched him around.” The torment that the teachers were experiencing became so bad that one of them actually committed suicide. It is mind-boggling to me that children of such a young age would do such horrible things to their teachers. Even if the ages that children entered middle school and first grade were different during that time, I cannot imagine that the students at Gao Yuan’s school were that old. It brought to mind the closing lines from Diary of a Madman, where the main character proclaims that the uncorrupted children will the saviors of society. It seems that in the case of the Cultural Revolution, it was the corrupted children that brought about the downfall of society.

Works Cited

Gao, Yuan. Born Red : A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1987

Categories
HST271

Week 10: Exploration Packet 2

One thing that interested in about the reading this week was just how strained Chinese-Soviet relations were. I had never thought to view Chinese-Soviet relations in this tenuous way. I had wrongly assumed that since both countries self-identified as communist, they would both mostly get along. However, as perfectly illustrated here, that is most definitely not always the case! It has been interesting to track the growth and decline of Chinese-Soviet relations throughout our readings, from the U.S.S.R.’s support of the fledgling Chinese communist party, to the questionable support the CCP received from the Soviets during the civil war and WWII, to the straining of their relationship during this time. Although the two countries both labeled themselves as being communist nations, it is obvious that they were traveling on two different paths.

In my opinion, the main catalyst for their divergence came from the different views that the Soviets and the CCP had on peace. For the Soviet government, peaceful international relations were swiftly becoming a priority. After Stalin’s reign of terror left Russia in tatters, the new First Secretary, Nikita Khrushchev, reframed the Russian strategy for international engagement around peace and cooperation. For example, the U.S.S.R. requested to be allowed into NATO, distanced itself from the Algerian National Liberation Front, and encouraged the signing of a Soviet-American friendship treaty. Perhaps the most extreme example of the new Soviet image came in the form of Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, in which he conceded the fatal errors of Stalin and his regime.  Thus, the Soviet’s efforts to “De-Stalinize” themselves were beginning to make a real difference both at home and abroad.

China, on the other hand, was still a new-created communist country. While Russia had been established for a while and was evolving their foreign policy to include more cooperative approaches, Mao and his government were still firmly entrenched in the Marxist ideal of revolution. Within Marxist ideology, societal power shifts are constantly taking place and will continue to do so until the final revolution, in which the proletariat will overthrow the bourgeois and equal distribution of the means of production will finally be achieved. Therefore, until this occurred, the proletariat needed to purge all unequal societal influences, or so the CCP believed. Thus, the U.S.S.R.’s shift away from this strictly Marxist model into one that encouraged peaceful cooperation with capitalist countries was very alarming to the newly minted communist nation. Although this is definitely not the whole reason that the two states’ relationship crumbled, I still think these two different approaches to peace played a large role.

Works Cited

Shen, Zhihua, and Yafeng Xia. Mao and the Sino-Soviet Partnership, 1945-1959 : A New History. The Harvard Cold War Studies Book Series. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015.

Categories
HST271

Week 9: World War II

In response to Dr. D’Haeseleer’s question this week about our readings (“How does your perspective on the War change when you see the long-term perspective from China and then realize that it was followed immediately by a civil war?”), I think my perspective on World War II has changed quite a lot after this week! Learning about how complex the situation in China was before, during, and after World War II made me realize that that yes, WWII was actually a global war. This may seem like an obvious realization (after all, it is literally in the name), but I tend to find myself hyper-focusing on the American and European perspectives during the War. Although being well educated on these aspects of WWII is very important, it is also equally important to learn about other parts of the world during the War and what was happening in their country at the time. Oftentimes, this information explains current world events and situations, such as the power of the CCP in China today.

One part of the reading that I found to be quite interesting was the various tactics that the communists used to fight against the Japanese. I was very interested to find out how they fought against the Japanese forces, as they were already spread so thin from the civil war that was taking place. It turns out that some of their main tactics for combat was guerilla warfare. For example, one way that the communist army would avoid the Japanese forces was through their segment worm trick. This move would involve them starting out with a large unit of men that would drop two men at a time throughout their journey. That way, if they were being tracked then the Japanese would eventually have no more trail to follow since the original unit would be all split up. This was just one of the many techniques that the communists used against the Japanese. Other methods that the Chinese communists to fight the Japanese were outlined by Lin Biao, a general of the communist army, who stated that “What we can do is split the enemy up in smaller groups wherever possible, and destroy them. We can harass them, cut their communication routes so they can get no reinforcements, no food, no supplies of any kind. We have already cut the Chentai railway here in many places.” Ultimately, these methods helped the Chinese clench their victory against the invading forces.

Works Cited

Moïse Edwin E. Modern China: A History Third ed. Harlow, England: Pearson/Longman, 2008.

Smedley, Agnes, J. F Horrabin, and Victor Gollancz Ltd. China Fights Back : An American Woman with the Eighth Route Army. Left Book Club Edition. London: V. Gollancz, 1938.

Categories
HST271

Show and Tell Module 3: Delving into Diary of a Madman

When I realized that the time for our module 3 show and tell project was upon us, I immediately knew what topic I wanted to explore more deeply. Ever since I first read Lu Xun’s famous short story, “Diary of a Madman”, I was intrigued by the deeper meaning of the piece. What broader point was Xun trying to make, if any? Was it a commentary on Chinese society? An examination of the human condition? Or simply the horrifying tale of a man sinking deeper and deeper into delusion. With these questions in mind, I began my research to find out the truth.

Before I dive into my findings, however, I will first go into some context about the piece. The author, Lu Xun, was born in the year 1881 in the city of Shaoxing in Zhejiang Province [1]. He almost became a doctor, but instead took up the profession of healing the souls of the populace after seeing a slideshow depicting people idly watching as a person was executed in front of them [2]. Xun believed that his writing could achieve his goal and began to author stories that strove to “dissect the malaise of Chinese humanity in symbolic form and…resurrect the Chinese body from the curse of living death”[3]. From this wish came “Diary of a Madman”. When this story first came out in 1918, it was written in Baihua (or Colloquial Chinese) [4]. This decision to use Baihua was a massive departure from the norm and caused quite a stir, since most Chinese literature was written in Wenyan (or Classical Chinese), which most of the Chinese population was unable to understand [5]. Even before they even picked up his work, Lu Xun wanted the Chinese people to know that his goal with “Diary of a Madman” was to create enormous cultural change. However, the content of his story was even more shocking than his choice of language. “Diary of a Madman” tells the tale of a presumed madman who believes that his entire village is made of cannibals who are planning on eating him.

The first meaning that has been drawn from this odd story comes from James Reeve Pusey’s book Lu Xun and Evolution. In this, he states that “Diary of a Madman” is an examination of human nature and that Xun is pointing out how evil humanity truly is [6]. However, Pusey does not believe that “Diary of a Madman” is painting an irredeemable picture of humanity. He points to a line in the story where the main character states that the reason that the children of the village also eat people is because “their fathers and mothers have taught them to be like that” [7]. Therefore, Pusey proposes that Xun is using “Diary of a Madman” to point out the evil in human nature; however, that that evil is a learned one, not one that a person is born with [8]. Thus, Xun’s emphasis on the innocence of young people provides an avenue for the restoration of humanity: through the children, who are too young to be tainted by humanity’s villainy. This idea is solidified through the last line of the story, which is a simple command to “Save the children”[9].

A different interpretation of Diary of a Madman comes from Lu Xun’s revolution: writing in a time of violence, whose author, Gloria Davis, views Xun’s inclusion of cannibalism in his story as a means to critique the social structure of China [10]. This concept appears in the story when the protagonist comes to the realization that “…I’m someone with four thousand years’ experience of cannibalism behind me”, revealing Xun’s disdainful view of an ancient Chinese society whose structure had oppressed so many [11].  As Davis puts it, “…it [Diary of a Madman] produces a visceral indictment of “the old society’s” anthropophagic appetite, the depth of which is progressively revealed to the protagonist” [12]. Thus, the normalized cannibalism taking place within the protagonist’s village functions as a metaphor for harmful practices normalized through tradition in Chinese society.

Although there were many more theories and interpretations of Lu Xun’s story to explore, these two were the ones that made the most sense to me, especially when combined. At the time when Lu Xun was writing this story, China was in a time of great turmoil. Political unrest within the country was causing rumbling of rebellion and long-held Chinese customs and traditions were being reexamined by the newly emerging, youth-powered Communists [13]. The two theories I have outlined here present a cohesive view of Diary of a Madman as a story that exists as a perfect representation of both this evolution of culture and desire for youth-driven change. Not only had Lu Xun written a masterful, horrifying short story that captured the attention of readers worldwide, he was also able to capture the discontent and disillusionment of an entire generation.


Footnotes

[1] David Wang, “Chinese literature from 1841 to 1937”, in The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, Chang, Kang-i Sun & Owen, Stephen (arg.), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 2:413–564, 474, 2010, doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521855594.008.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Gloria Davis, Lu Xun’s Revolution : Writing in a Time of Violence, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013), 231, https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674073944.

[5] Ibid.

[6] James Reeve Pusey, Lu Xun and Evolution, (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1998), retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=5462&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[7] Lu Xun, and William A. Lyell, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 41,  https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=39159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[8] James Reeve Pusey, Lu Xun and Evolution, (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1998), retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=5462&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[9] Lu Xun, and William A. Lyell, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 41,  https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=39159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[10] Gloria Davis, Lu Xun’s Revolution : Writing in a Time of Violence, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013), 231, https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674073944.

[11] Lu Xun, and William A. Lyell, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 41,  https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=39159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[12] Gloria Davis, Lu Xun’s Revolution : Writing in a Time of Violence, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013), 231, https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674073944.

[13] Chapter 13 Summary.

Bibliography

Chapter 13 summary

Davis, Gloria. Lu Xun’s Revolution : Writing in a Time of Violence. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 2013. https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674073944.

Lu Xun, and Lyell, William A.. Diary of a Madman and Other Stories Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 1990. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=39159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Pusey, James Reeve. Lu Xun and Evolution. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press. 1998. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=5462&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Wang, David. “Chinese literature from 1841 to 1937”. In The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, Chang, Kang-i Sun & Owen, Stephen (arg.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2:413–564. 2010. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521855594.008.